In August 2023, the Chicago Triathlon saw over 8,000 participants, who swam in Lake Michigan and raced through the streets of Chicago. The event’s mission statement, “YOUR ABILITY, YOUR EXPERIENCE, YOUR TRI,” was evident in the diverse range of triathletes, from beginners to experts, children to grandparents, and even para-triathletes.
As a first-time charity partner, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) had a team of five, including four Girl Scouts and one adult, who completed the triathlon while raising funds to support our mission to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.
On August 26, the Girl Scouts arrived at Foster Beach with their supporters at 5:30 a.m. to take on the 2.82-mile (Jr. Tri- 7 – 10 years) or 5.64-mile (Sr. 11- 14 years) course, which involved swimming in Lake Michigan, cycling along the shore, and running to the finish line. Our adult triathlete completed an 18.57-mile course the following day, also featuring swimming, cycling, and running. The lake’s rough conditions limited the swim for the kids and caused the swim to be canceled for the adults, but team GCNWI overcame their nerves and successfully completed the race with smiles on their faces.
We are proud to celebrate the achievements of Alison B. (20:37), Robyn G. (29:24), Savannah T. (31:22), Isabella S. (33:17), and Kathy G. (2:13:27).
Our team aimed to raise $5,500 to provide access to Girl Scouts for all girls. If you would like to support Team GCNWI, you can still donate by clicking here. We are already preparing for the 2024 Chicago Triathlon, and if you would like more information on how to join our team or support GCNWI, please email LaTanya Gatewood at Lgatewood@girlscoutsgcnwi.org.
Check out the amazing recap video by clicking here.
Over 120 Girl Scout friends and families participated in the inaugural S’mores Day Fun Run held on August 12, 2023, to support Family Partnership’s annual giving campaign and celebrate National S’mores Day!
The 1.2-mile course around Camp Greene Wood weaved through the scenic fields and wood trails of the camp, allowing runners to enjoy nature and get a tour of the camp in a unique way.
The run was followed by some fun activities, including crafting of s’mores-themed bead buddies and marshmallow catapults led by Camp Greene Wood’s CITs (counselors in training).
Erin Morton, one of the participants, shared her experience and said, “We had so much fun. The counselors in training were awesome and super engaged during the crafting.”
It wouldn’t be an actual S’mores Day without making a s’more! Girl Scouts enjoyed delicious s’mores around the campfire; there were even flavored marshmallows to choose from to make your s’more extra tasty.
The event celebrated the love of s’mores while also raising over $4,000 towards the Family Partnership’s annual giving campaign. The money raised will provide financial assistance, ensuring that Girl Scouts is accessible to all girls. It will also be used to offer training and support for adult volunteers and innovations to camps and properties.
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana would like to thank everyone who participated and made the day special. The council would also like to thank Talking Rain, the makers of Sparkling Ice®, for sponsoring the bottled water used at the event.
There is nothing like seeing where our fall product comes from and tasting nuts and candy right off the production line!
On August 8, 2023, service unit managers and council staff members were invited to tour Ashdon Farms, the facility where fall product nuts and candies are made.
Ashdon Farms is located in Waukesha, Wisconsin, about an hour north of the Illinois and Wisconsin border.
When we arrived, we were split into two groups to tour the production factory and the shipping warehouse.
When touring the production factory, we saw all the machines in action, including a machine coating the new Cheddar Caramel Crunch puff pieces with cheddar and caramel flavorings.
We also saw how technology plays a massive part in making all trail mixes. With exceptional programming on a computer, the machine knows how much of each item in a trail mix to put in the container.
When touring the shipping warehouse, we saw the endless aisles of products that filled the shelves.
We met with warehouse workers who shared facts about how fast they can put an order together and then load the truck for distribution. Warehouse worker Sandy shared with us how the fall product season is the busiest time of the year for her, causing her to work extra hours, but she takes great pride in correctly compiling all the orders. Thank you, Sandy, for all your work and dedication in putting together all our fall product orders!
The tour of Ashdon Farms was a great opportunity to see where our fall product items come from, and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into each fall product order. Thank you to Ashdon Farms for having us and for the informative tours.
The Fall Product Program is starting soon! It will run from September 22 to October 18. Besides the many great products that are available, the Fall Product Program is also an excellent opportunity for troops to earn proceeds to fund new adventures. Don’t forget, when your troop sells at least $1,000 worth of fall product items your troop will earn an additional five cents per cookie box sold during cookie season!
For more information on the Fall Product Program, please visit our website here.
The best is yet to come for Amalia as she gets ready to enter her sixth year of Girl Scouts! In 2018, Amalia and her family discovered Girl Scouts at a back-to-school event at Unity High School in Cicero, IL. At the time, Amalia was looking for a program of her own, just like her older brothers who participated in boys only programs. As Amalia gears up for the new Girl Scout year, she’s reflecting on her journey and hoping her story will encourage others to embrace stepping outside of their comfort zones. After all, anything is possible when we’re willing to try new things.
Walking through the parking lot at Unity High School, Amalia’s mother, Leticia, noticed a woman who she thought could use a hand carrying her belongings. Jumping into action, Leticia’s two sons assisted the woman with her belongings and made their way inside the school. While going table to table to check out the different vendors, Amalia and her family came across the woman they helped outside, who was none other than Martha Sternickle, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s (GCNWI) Director of Member Engagement. After talking with Martha and learning more about Girl Scouts, Amalia and her family decided to embark on their Girl Scout journey.
Amalia began Girl Scouts as a Brownie and is now a Cadette who loves robotics and STEM activities, exploring downtown Chicago with her Girl Scout troop, music, and is even in her school band where she plays the compression and snare drum. At just 12 years old, Amalia has been thriving in Girl Scouts and in life, something Leticia attributes to Andrea, Amalia’s troop leader. With wise words and encouragement from Andrea, Amalia continues to step outside of her comfort zone and try activities she’s sometimes a little hesitant to try! She’s reached new heights by riding roller coasters on troop outings to Six Flags Great America and has tried horseback riding; two activities she now loves thanks to encouragement from Andrea. As Amalia puts it, Andrea encourages each girl in her troop to try new activities, even if they’re a little hesitant, because at the end of the day, they won’t know if they like something unless they try it.
Girl Scouts has also provided Amalia with the opportunity to make new friends within and outside of her troop and form connections with girls from out of state councils. Leticia and Amalia frequently attend council-wide events so Amalia can develop friendships with girls outside of her troop and continue discovering activities that pique her interest. She’s even encouraged some of her friends to join Girl Scouts so they can set sail on their own unique Girl Scout journeys and create a lifetime of memories, just as she has done. Amalia has also had the opportunity to participate in virtual events outside of the GCNWI council. She virtually attended the Girl Scouts of Colorado’s Inspiring Futures series where she learned about potential careers and the educational pathways that could lead her there. She even sat in on a conversation with Ashley Baller, Miss Rodeo Colorado, and learned how Ashley combined her passion for horses and pageants into something special.
For Amalia and her family, Girl Scouts is a family experience. Just as Amalia has supported her older brothers, Leticia routinely brings her sons to Girl Scout events so they can support their sister. While Girl Scouts is an opportunity to bring the family together, Leticia, who was once her daughter’s troop leader, keeps an eye out for opportunities to bring Girl Scouts to other families and communities. Simply put, Leticia wants to bring awareness of Girl Scouts to other communities and families because she’s seen firsthand the impact Girl Scouts has made on Amalia and her family. She wants other families and communities to experience all Girl Scouts has to offer! To Leticia, Girl Scouts is an outlet for girls. It’s an opportunity for girls to make friends outside of their classroom or even community, it’s a safe space for girls to step outside of their comfort zones and try new things they might not otherwise have the opportunity to try, and it’s a place where girls can explore their own and new communities and see just how diverse the world truly is.
As Amalia gears up for the new Girl Scout year, she’s excited to see what new adventures lie ahead! With encouragement from her Girl Scout squad and Andrea, she’s ready to soar to new heights and make this her best year yet. One day Amalia even hopes to be a troop leader so just like Andrea, she can inspire girls to try new things, chase their dreams, and be their most authentic selves.
If you’d like to continue the Girl Scout journey you or your daughter has embarked on, renew your membership today and join us as we sail into another year of adventure, fun, and growth! Or to learn more about the ways you can participate in Girl Scouts, visit us at www.girlscoutsgcwni.org/join.
You may remember an earlier blog, written by Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Historian Christine Caragher, about the ceremonies a Brownie participates in to become part of Girl Scouts.
As troops are now forming for the new Girl Scout year, we’d like to further examine the history of becoming a Girl Scout Brownie and how the Brownie “elf” still lives on today.
The Brownie program was inspired by the children’s book The Brownies, by Julia Horatia Ewing. In the book, Brownies were compared to fairies or elves (who were to help others by doing a “good turn”), and their uniforms often sported an elf in one way or another. It was only fitting that the first Girl Scout Brownie uniforms also had elf-like features. One of their earliest hats was a peaked cap like an elf might wear, and their first uniforms had an elf patch stitched onto them.
In 1921, Brownie Girl Scouts were given a membership pin to wear on their uniform, which was in the shape of an elf. Eventually, the elf was placed inside a trefoil shape, which has been the Brownie membership pin ever since.
The felt beanie, which is easily recognized as belonging to a Brownie Girl Scout, was introduced in 1941. Over the years, the color of the elf and the beanie changed to match the other accessories for the Brownie uniform, but the image of an elf remained. The elf was also found on a dress pocket, anklet cuff, uniform tie, blouse sleeve, and a belt purse. Even the official uniform buttons had an elf stamped onto them. In 1996, a baseball-style cap with the Brownie elf on it was introduced. Camp uniforms also had the Brownie trefoil printed, embroidered, or stamped.
When everyone in your troop is wearing the same apparel or uniform, it makes you feel special. You are not only part of a group, but a sisterhood, too!
Stop by any of our Girl Scout shops, or look online to see what Brownie Girl Scouts wear today!
Fourteen Girl Scouts and volunteers started their summer with an adventure full of firsts. From unforgettable rock-climbing experiences to crafting gnomes, Girl Scouts navigated physical challenges that tested their comfort zones. Girl Scouts supported one another during their trip to Colorado and made lasting friendships. In this post, you’ll get a day-by-day recap and hear some stories from the attendees.
July 26, 2023 Girl Scouts landed in Colorado on July 25, but their activities started on July 26 with a hike along the Colorado River. On the way, the hike turned into a step-uphill climb. Girl Scouts encouraged each other to keep going as they trekked up the side of the Rocky Mountains. The high altitudes posed some challenges, but by taking breaks and having oxygen tanks on hand, the Girl Scouts were able to reach the top! They saw many native animals, including moose, deer, and elk, and enjoyed the lovely views. The group also visited a historical site where Girl Scouts got to tour the different buildings, including an old cottage where ranchers would come and stay for the night and a building where ranchers would bring their horses into when it got cold. While visiting the local town, Girl Scouts enjoyed some tasty ice cream!
July 27, 2023 After breakfast, Girl Scouts got to go on a four-mile horseback ride. They were very eager to ride horses and had lots of fun being able to ride together. After horseback riding, the group completed a high ropes challenge at Camp Chief Ouray. Girl Scout Victoria soared with courage when participating in a high ropes challenge.
“It was very scary climbing the swinging ladder and jumping off the ledge. I felt accomplished after jumping because it was a very high ledge, maybe 20 feet or more, and I was terrified of climbing up the trunk. After completing the climb, I felt proud that I did it, and I can now say that I had jumped off a 20-foot platform,” said Victoria.
Girl Scout Lily conquered her fears and reached new heights. “I was very scared because it got really windy, and the ladder rocked. I felt it was going to fall over. At least I completed it,” said Lily.
July 28, 2023 The most anticipated day of the trip! Girl Scouts spent half the day white water rafting. Before they could get in the water, Girl Scouts had to practice all the commands for paddling. The tour guide from MAD Adventures told the Girl Scouts about the three different types of rapids that they would go through: Snooze, which was just a wave train; Wake Up, which was an actual rapid; and Needles Eye, which was the hardest out of all three. After learning about rafting safety, it was finally time to board the raft and get in the water!
“The experience was dynamic: at times, you were gently floating down the river and taking in all of the magnificent views, and then suddenly the rapids would pick up, and the raft was bobbing up and down. I will always treasure the experience – and hope to do it again,” added volunteer, Misse.
“My highlight of the trip was going white water rafting. I love traveling and trying new things, so this was a great fit. It felt like a water ride, almost like nature’s very own Six Flags. The boat was rocking and swaying, but in a good way. We even jumped off a cliff into the water! It was really cold but refreshing. The best part, though, was having awesome friends with me the whole boat ride,” said Girl Scout Francesca.
After conquering one challenge, it was time to take on the next! When the group made it through the rapids, they reached Jump Rock, which, as the name implies, was a rock about 25 feet above water, perfect for those looking for a thrilling experience. A few Girl Scouts accepted the challenge and jumped off the rock.
“We were able to jump off the high cliff into the Colorado River. My Girl Scout was smiling the whole time,” said volunteer Claudia.
July 29, 2023 The morning started with some downtime for Girl Scouts to work on crafts. Girl Scout Kelly worked on decorating some gnomes. She made one for herself and one to share with her grandma. Around 10:00 AM, the group headed to the Kiva Center for indoor rock-climbing. Girl Scouts learned all about rock-climbing safety, and we’re ready to climb. There were four different climbs that varied in difficulty. Some Girl Scouts made it to the top, while others made it halfway, still a challenging experience for everyone! After rock-climbing, the group went roller-skating and then had lunch. After lunch, the group traveled to Sulpher Springs, a resort and spa with healing mineral water pools for ultimate relaxation. Well-deserved after multiple days of hiking and using upper body strength! Girl Scouts had a lot of fun getting to know each other better while exploring the different pools.
“As I was getting ready to jump into the pool, my friend pushed me in, which I was not expecting, but it was funny, and we laughed it off,” said Girl Scout Kelly. “This was the best part of the day; time just flew by,” said Girl Scout Soleil. Girl Scouts ended their day by enjoying dinner together, playing two truths and a lie, and making s’mores.
July 30, 2023 The day started with more downtime for Girl Scouts to work on their creative arts and crafts projects. Girl Scout Liliana learned how to do leather work on a wallet. She was in the middle of finishing up the stitching when the group had to leave to go ziplining. However, the weather had changed once they got there, and it was no longer safe to zipline. Lucky for Liliana, she got to return to the craft shop to finish her wallet!
“I’m really glad I learned how to leather work. I probably would not have been able to learn this anywhere else, or at least not for a long while,” said Liliana. After spending more time at the craft shop, Girl Scouts went back to the roller-skating rink and enjoyed more quality time together.
July 31, 2023 For the last day of the trip, Girl Scouts were able to squeeze in their rescheduled ziplining adventures! After soaring through the sky on a zipline, Girl Scouts headed for the airport to fly through the friendly skies and return home.
Overall, Girl Scouts thrived while expanding their comfort zones and trying new things.
“Watching my daughter that week started off unsure and afraid of each of the adventures (white water rafting, ziplining, the high ropes course, climbing to the highest point in the Rocky Mts., etc.) and slowly achieving success with each of them was the best experience I could have imagined. That is what Girl Scouts is all about. I am so very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this trip twice,” said volunteer Lisa.
Take a look at the fun the Girl Scouts had by browsing the gallery below.
This year’s Gold Award Girl Scouts are change-makers, role models, and real-life heroes. To earn the Gold Award, Girl Scouts must invest more than 80 hours of leadership, project management, and service to create a sustainable impact in their communities and beyond.
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is delighted to share that nearly 50 Girl Scouts have earned this prestigious award by addressing many pressing issues within their communities, such as mental health, poverty and homelessness, environmental sustainability, and cultural awareness.
We are pleased to introduce you to the Class of 2023 Girl Scout Gold Awardees.
Read on to learn more about the awardees by topic of their project.
Persephone A. – The Feral CATastrophe, Persephone’s Gold Award project was to educate cat adopters so they can safely enjoy their new pet. Persephone wrote and illustrated an interactive pamphlet for children whose families adopted a new cat. It prompts children to interpret and respect their cat’s communication and enjoy the new pet in ways that are good for both the child and the cat. Persephone also built two winter shelters for feral cats and two trap–neuter–return insulated boxes, allowing the rescue to continue its essential work when the weather is colder.
Allie K. – Animal Shelter Renovation, Allie’s Gold Award project was to help more animals get adopted out of the DuPage County Animal Shelter. Allie painted and put in new ceiling tiles in their multipurpose room that is used for training, potential adopters, staff meetings, and more. Allie also put in new flooring and trim in the cat adoption room. Since completing the project, countless animals have been adopted and found their forever homes.
Mikaila Y. – Animal Welfare Project, Makaila’s Gold Award project addressed helping an endangered blue-throated macaw, Iggy. By partnering with the Phillips Park Zoo, Makaila gave presentations, created a website, and wrote a blog post to spread awareness and share ways others can help protect this endangered species. Makaila also held workshops for younger Girl Scouts where they created enrichment toys for Iggy.
Art, Culture, and Heritage
Rachel B. – Build Proper Signage and Bring Awareness to the Clarendon Hills Historical Society, Rachel’s Gold Award project raised money to purchase a proper sign for the Clarendon Hills Historical Society. This sign was well-built and will last for many years to come. Rachel also threw an awareness party for the society where many community members were able to visit and understand all the work that the Historical Society does.
Avery C. – Daisy Mural at CPC, Avery’s Gold Award project involved implementing a small team to design and paint a daisy mural, which is their town flower, at their local church. The team painted the rest of the room as well. The town was full of daisy fields before it became a town, and the church’s basement desperately needed to be repainted.
Annie K. – Drama Club Green Room, Annie’s Gold Award project cleaned out her school drama club’s green room to make a more usable space. Annie went through the costumes and created a more cohesive organization system so that the drama club could better use what they already had. Annie also got rid of many old items that were no longer usable. The project aimed to save money for the drama club, create a rehearsal space and make putting on shows easier.
Sydney R.- Seeing the World Beyond Your Neighborhood, Sydney’s Gold Award project addressed the importance of learning about all cultures. Sydney created a website that provides resources to help individuals explore and learn more about other cultures. In addition to the website, Sydney also gave presentations on various cultures and shared her own personal experiences within her culture.
Child Enrichment Programs
Maya A. – CDH NICU Library, Maya’s Gold Award project created a little wooden library for the NICU at Central DuPage Hospital for the NICU’s reading program. That program educates parents on the importance of reading for the baby’s brain development and strengthening the parent-child relationship. The library stores books and all the resources needed for the program. Maya also created an Amazon wish list where others can continue to donate more books.
Sydney K. – Ivywhale.com – Socialization Not Isolation, Sydney’s Gold Award project connects hospitalized or otherwise isolated children with high school and college students to play games, do homework, read, or just talk. By visiting Ivywhale.com, parents can sign their children up for an experience where they can be kids and forget about feeling isolated. Beyond the primary injury, over 90% of hospitalized children suffer emotional upsets due to being hospitalized; Ivywhale.com hopes to help minimize that trauma. Ivywhale.com recognizes that children do not need to be hospitalized to feel isolated. Sydney’s website welcomes any child to visit for an experience.
Emily O. – Fostering Resilient Learners; Educate and Regulate, Emily’s Gold Award project developed a mentorship program at the local middle school. Emily taught a team of eighth-grade students about adverse childhood experiences and different ways to manage stress and negative emotions. The students then shared their knowledge and built connections with fifth-grade students. Before graduating, the eighth-grade students passed their knowledge on to the seventh-grade students who would take over the project the following year.
Megan R. – Crafting Your Confidence, Megan’s Gold Award project addressed psychological well-being in elementary-aged children by working on self-confidence, courage, and a growth mindset. Megan created guided journals and confidence kits for various communities, such as patients with chronic illnesses, hospital settings, foster care, and Girl Scouts. These kits included a journal, cheerful stickers, pencils with affirmations, crayons for coloring and writing, and a stress ball. These items focused on the theme of “humankind,” being both human and kind.
Allison S. – The Healthy Living Club Cookbook, Allison’s Gold Award project was to create a specific cookbook for kids and adults with Down syndrome to provide recipes and tips for independent cooking. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most people had to do remote learning or work from home, which caused many people to prepare meals for themselves or their families. Allison’s project helps those with disabilities learn how to cook at home and gain independence in life skills that can impact their overall health.
Arwen T. – Improving Safety and Efficiency for Equestrian Connection, Arwen’s Gold Award project focused on transforming a storage space from unsafe and inefficient to a furnished and usable closet at a local nonprofit, Equestrian Connection. They work with individuals with disabilities, several of whom are veterans, to rehabilitate them and restore confidence. Their storage closet is mainly used for keeping equipment for their annual fundraiser, whose profits are used to further their mission.
Angelica G.- The New Kind of Adventure Through Reading, Angelica’s Gold Award project was focused on increasing children’s literacy and making getting a book easy and accessible for all children. Angelica gave kids the fundamentals they needed to go through life while also taking them on a wonderful adventure through reading.
Ainsley G. – A Lifetime of Literature, Ainsley’s Gold Award project was to start a program to get children interested in reading, especially in the technology-centered post-pandemic world. Ainsley built the Community Bookshelf, a little permanent library at the First Christian Church of Lansing curated for school-age children. In addition, Ainsley ran a program with the five kindergarten classes at Coolidge Elementary School. Ainsley visited each of the five classes four times and hand-made 100 reading buddies to distribute to the students once they had returned a reading log, proving that they had read 20 books. Along with her reading log, Ainsley distributed books for the students to keep and to begin their reading journey.
Bryce P. – Women in the Workplace, Bryce’s Gold Award project addressed the future of young women professionals. Bryce recorded 24 interviews with women from various professions and created a podcast exclusively for girls to learn about occupations they may be interested in. Bryce published her “Women in the Workplace” podcast on Spotify and shared it with the clubs at her high school and local Girl Scout troops.
Julia W. – LEARN 10 Library Renovation and Reopening, Julia’s Gold Award project was to revamp and reopen the library at LEARN 10 Charter School in North Chicago. Julia provided the kids with a space that held the necessary resources to enhance their reading skills and give them a nice place to learn. Julia also purchased new books that the kids wanted to see more of to encourage them to read more at home and make them realize their love for reading.
Ameenah Z.- Tales from the Other Side of the Desk, Ameenah’s Gold Award project addressed the lack of support for left-handed students and the fine motor and writing differences left-handed students face. Ameenah distributed hand-neutral desks to all of the classrooms at her school to give all students an adequate workspace, and by raising awareness, this project led the school to create a committee to provide hand-neutral desks for all of the schools in the district.
Julianna D. – YouTube Channel for the Elderly, Julianna’s Gold Award project addressed the issue that loneliness is a common problem among seniors, especially those with dementia and other illnesses. Julianna asked student volunteers to record videos of them sharing a talent and posted them on a YouTube channel Julianna created. Julianna also made a website that is easy to use for senior citizens with information about her Gold Award project and access to the YouTube channel. Julianna also shared these resources with several nursing homes within the community.
Environment and Sustainability
Neela C. – Buckthorn Removal, Neela’s Gold Award project was to revitalize a horse trail for a nonprofit horse therapy barn. The trail had been overtaken by invasive buckthorn, which narrowed the trail so much that it was virtually unusable. Neela worked to remove this buckthorn and put in place sustainable methods to stop its continued growth.
Samantha F. – Composting: Reducing in the Community, Samantha’s Gold Award project was focused on composting. Samantha built a large community composting pile in collaboration with the local park district. Samantha also talked to local Girl Scout troops and first-year biology students at her high school and shared a video about how to compost at home.
Kye J.- Native Plant Education, Kye’s Gold Award project increased people’s knowledge about native plants. Kye designed a patch program, a brochure for Richmond Gardens, and started an annual native plant seed donation drive.
Keelin K. – Community Prayer Garden, Keelin’s Gold Award project was creating a community prayer garden for people to have a space to sit, be at peace, meditate, and pray.
Naomi L. – Community Recycling and Conservation, Naomi’s Gold Award project addressed the issue of plastic caps that are improperly disposed of and cause harm to animals and the environment. Members of the community helped Naomi collect plastic caps to recycle into a bench through the ABC Promise Partnership recycling program at Plainfield North High School. Naomi also mentored Drauden Point Middle School National Junior Honor Society by helping them start their own recycling program.
Siara P. – Recycling Campaign and Signage Installation, Siara’s Gold Award project was a three-part effort to reduce the amount of contaminated recycling within the community. The first part of the project was to design and spread infographics about recycling, focusing on the economic and environmental benefits of recycling. The second portion of the project was to design and implement signage at a popular picnic park within the community. The final component of the project was to lead a clean-up of the project.
Lauren S. – Riverside Triangle Park Improvement, Lauren’s Gold Award project aims to improve a local triangle park area, which acts as an entrance to the community. Lauren cleared the area of all the weeds and invasive species, which were choking the base of the mature trees and blocking visibility to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Lauren also organized a date and volunteer group to plant the native plants. Additionally, Lauren included six tree tags to educate residents about native species.
Jessica B. – Paperbacks for Patients, Jessica’s Gold Award project worked with Pediatric Therapy Centers to provide books for the Lending Library to ease stress and anxiety before and after their therapy sessions. Additionally, Jessica worked with her church to host a mental health awareness night. It mainly targeted youth and educated them about resources and support they can access.
Katelin G. – Wellness on a Budget, Katelin’s Gold Award project was to provide healthy and nutritious meals for low-income families. Katelin ensured that all the meals could be made with ingredients that are cheap and easy to get ahold of. Additionally, a licensed nutritionist approved all of Katelin’s recipes.
Serena G. – Law Enforcement Teen Support, Serena’s Gold Award project aimed to educate teens who have a parent in law enforcement. Serena did this by creating a network where they can feel connected to others and a place where knowledge about mental health issues within law enforcement is accessible and easy to understand.
Tara G. – Entertainment TaraVision, Tara’s Gold Award project addressed the issue of patients feeling isolated while at the hospital. Tara provided trivia games, activities, and supplies for the hospital to help keep patients engaged and entertained while receiving treatment.
Delaney G. – Sensory Box, Delaney’s Gold Award project focused on mental health in students. Delaney noticed that kids are often stressed about finals and everyday life. Having a sensory box can help kids relax and give them a break from their responsibilities for a little bit. Delaney created the sensory boxes as a tool to help educate and provide ways to achieve better mental health.
Lily K. – Mindful in the Middle: A Guided Journal, Lily’s Gold Award project addressed students’ mental health as they transition from elementary school to middle school. Lily designed, wrote, and printed a guided journal to help students work through their emotions and thoughts as they continue on a new path.
Grace K. – Bridging the Gap, Grace’s Gold Award project addressed the mental health of incoming high school students. Grace gave an oral presentation, supplemented by an interactive online presentation with resources to help first-year students cope with their emotions, create positive relationships, and manage their mental health.
Katherine M. – Comfort Pillows and Pamphlets for Breast Cancer Patients, Katherine’s Gold Award project involved creating mastectomy comfort pillows to ease a patient’s pain and discomfort while riding in the car during recovery. The pillows clasp around the seatbelt, providing a cushioned barrier to protect the chest and prevent irritation post-surgery. Katherine also created a tutorial video for anyone who wants to learn the pillow-making process.
Ashley R. – Healthy Foundations, Ashley’s Gold Award project involved creating and implementing a health curriculum to be used in primary education. Working with a local gym teacher, Ashley gathered various resources and materials to build a fun and engaging program to teach kids the basics of a healthy lifestyle.
Julianna S. – Don’t Worry It’ll Be OK, Julianna’s Gold Award project spreads awareness about mental health issues and their symptoms and signs, but in words that teens going through a tough time can understand. Julianna also made a website saying all of these feelings are okay, some quick tips on how to help self-love, and resources to forward to the teens to help.
Mariam S. – Eating Disorders Awareness, Mariam’s Gold Award project raised awareness about different eating disorders, their causes, symptoms, and what others can do to help people affected by an eating disorder. Mariam also discussed the HAES (Healthy At Every Size) concept to emphasize that people can have different body sizes and be healthy. Mariam taught people about these concepts through presentations where the audience was middle or high school students. Mariam also created a website for this information, so it is available to anyone who wants to learn about eating disorders.
Hannah W. – Autism Baskets, Hannah’s Gold Award project helped their community by making sensory kits for the local schools. Hannah put together different textured toys, fidgets, and colored and textured pasta. The schools put these kits to good use, and the teachers absolutely loved them!
Bella Z. – One Stitch at a Time, Bella’s Gold Award project intertwined mental health coping skills and knitting. Bella created a booklet that described beginner knitting steps and related each of those steps to a certain coping skill for anxiety and depression. Bella hosted learn-how-to-knit events at two libraries and created a public YouTube channel and blog where she posted knitting steps and coping skills to increase awareness of art therapy.
Elise G. – Sharing Minority Stories Through a Podcast, Elise’s Gold Award project created an interview-style podcast to discuss minority experiences in predominately white spaces. Elise explored a variety of issues, such as the model minority myth, affirmative action, and the thin blue line controversy from the unique perspectives of minorities within predominately white communities. Elise took this opportunity to share these overlooked experiences and created a community that understands the nuances associated with racial identity.
Margaret C. – The Cookie Bake Off, Margaret’s Gold Award project was a Girl Scout community event geared towards older Girl Scouts during cookie season. This event aimed to help keep older girls involved in Girl Scouts by showing there are fun events for girls their age.
Ava M. – We Dine Together Club, Ava’s Gold Award project created a club that focuses on ensuring everyone at her high school feels like they belong and are included. The club’s mission is to ensure no one eats alone at lunch and facilitate monthly outreach activities for the school. Going back to school after the pandemic showed how much people struggled with feeling alone, so having people to sit next to and events to attend helped build the school community back up.
Amanda S. – Go Outdoors to Grow Outdoors, Amanda’s Gold Award project addressed the issue of indoor isolation and the importance of getting outside for physical and mental health. Amanda created a website that includes an I-Spy scavenger hunt, a did-you-know nature guide, and a personal goals pledge to encourage participants to continue to get out in nature and commit to doing something good for nature. As people learn more about nature, they are likely to take the time to enjoy it more, care for nature, feel interested, and feel good about themselves.
Frances D. – It’s a Female Thing, Frances’ Gold Award project aims to address the issue that women living in poverty or who are homeless do not have access to sanitary products. Frances contacted women’s organizations and their community for donations to fill the shelves at four food pantries to see if there was a need. The response was overwhelming. Because of Frances’ efforts, these products will now become a regular on the food pantry’s shelves.
Kyla H. – Period Poverty, Kyla’s Gold Award project focused on period poverty, a significant issue that mainly affects homeless women who don’t have access to or the means to buy menstrual products. Kyla’s project addressed this issue by bringing awareness to the problem and providing the means for women to get these products.
Lillian S. – Upgrade Family Promise Rooms, Lillian’s Gold Award project supported Family Promise, an organization that provides shelter, food, and an opportunity to regain employment through its program. Lillian’s project made their family rooms more functional and organized. These improvements gave the children a safe and comfortable space to play and study while keeping their entire family unit together. The improvements also provided a clean, safe space for everyone to socialize, work, get ready, and more.
Kyra D. – Kidz Play Expansion Project, Kyra’s Gold Award project helped to give underprivileged kids better access to extra-curricular clubs, sports, and activities. In 2014, Kyra created a nonprofit organization called Kidz Play to help tackle this issue, but as the years went on, Kyra struggled to expand Kidz Play outside her small town. Through her Gold Award project, Kyra grew Kidz Play throughout the state and beyond!
Jessica M. – The Golden Arrow Archery Range, Jessica’s Gold Award project built and created an archery range in Des Plaines, IL, on the property of the Society of the Danube Swabians and will be utilized by Girl Scouts Service Unit 404. The project provided two archery targets, an arrow net, two structures to hold up the net, eight compound bows, 100 arrows, and eight forearm shields. Girl Scout leaders obtained Level 1 Certification Archery Training to teach the Girl Scouts the sport of archery, and troops within Service Unit 404 will enjoy learning and playing archery for years to come. Through learning and playing archery, girls will improve their self-confidence and carry these lessons into their everyday lives.
Katherine L. – Information is Queen, Katherine’s Gold Award project addressed the communication and access to information issues her service unit faced. Katherine created an instruction manual and YouTube channel to help the service unit managers make updates to the website. Katherine went on to create lesson plans and resources for the service unit to use and even taught a web design class for younger Girl Scouts.
Congratulations to this impressive list of Girl Scouts.
We are eager to see how their Gold Award projects continue to live on throughout and even after their involvement in Girl Scouts.
Want to learn more about how you can Go Gold? Click here to get started.
Take a look at the photo gallery below from the 2023 Gold Award Ceremony, which took place on June 24, 2023.
For more than 100 years, Girl Scouts have discovered outdoor adventures full of learning, challenges, friendships, and tons of fun by going to camp. Today, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana offer outdoor programming at four camps across Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Camp Palos and Camp Greene Wood are day camps where Girl Scouts spend the day at camp and return home in the evening. Camp Juniper Knoll and Camp Butternut Springs are resident camps where Girl Scouts can have an overnight camping experience. With all summer camps now in full swing, our council historians and previous Girl Scout members have shared their fondest memories of attending and the history of former Girl Scout summer camps.
Camp Timber Trails – Munising, Michigan
Camp Timber Trails was leased for nine weeks from 1928 to 1942 from Bay DeNoc Lumber Company. It was in the heart of the Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was a pioneer camp for older Girl Scouts where they could roam over the entire National Forest from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan.
Girl Scouts who attended the camp came from Chicago and other surrounding councils. Some Girl Scouts were driven to camp, while others traveled from Chicago by train. Former Girl Scout Mary-Jane Ryan started her camping experience at Juniper Knoll, and at age 17, she attended Camp Timber Trails. Mary-Jane Ryan returned to Juniper Knoll as a staff member. Mary Jane Ryan’s daughter, Corkey Waite, said her mother’s Girl Scout experiences made her who she is today and that she always talks about Girl Scouts.
Camp Cloverleaf – Sheridan, Illinois
Camp Cloverleaf was originally named Camp Sheridan until 1959 and was located on the Fox River. By the spring of 1958, the winter house, which is seen in the above picture, was completed. It was the only building with hot and cold running water, central heating, and a stove. In the early 1960s, eight cabins that housed four Girl Scouts each and an outdoor kitchen were added. Eight platform tents were erected in 1962. In 1964, the Cloverleaf Council purchased another 44 acres adjacent to the original land. The next building to be built was the summer troop house; it had an indoor kitchen and fireplace. Between 1969 and 1972, the council purchased another 84 acres, bringing the total acreage to 198 acres. In 1979 and 1980, more platform tents were built. These had wooden roofs and canvas sides. Eventually, the original platform tents had wooden roofs added. The last building to be built on the property was a shower house. The camp also had two primitive camp areas, trails, an archery field, and a canoe launch area.
Former Girl Scout Marty Devereux-Poch’s fondest memories of Camp Cloverleaf were that her grandma was one of her Junior troop leaders and loved camping in the little cabins. Each cabin had a name like Sleep Inn. There was space for activities and for having meals in the middle of the ring of cabins.
“My troop was from Our Lady of the Mount Catholic School, so we always packed our Girl Scout uniforms when we went camping. On Sunday morning, we would all get dressed up and head down to Wedron, IL, to attend Mass, and then we would return to camp for breakfast before packing up for home. As a Cadette, I learned archery, and Mr. Whelen, who farmed part of the camp property, always found some arrows during harvest time. I learned to canoe at camp. Some trips on the Fox River were short, to Wedron and back to camp. Others were day-long trips from camp to Yorkville, stopping at Camp Merrybrook to eat our lunch in their meadow, then being picked up and driven back to camp,” said Marty.
Former Girl Scout Gwen Novy Ferguson also has fond memories of Camp Cloverleaf. She camped there as a young Girl Scout and became a Junior troop leader and council trainer in the late 1970s.
“My memories include times spent with Junior Troop #13, Cadette Troop #17, and Senior Troop #99. During my Junior and Cadette years, my mom, Gladys Novy, was my leader, and Erma Slovak was my Senior leader. We enjoyed outdoor cooking, badge-work, singing, stargazing, knot-tying, compass, lashing, crafts, nature lore, campfires, skits, service projects, hiking, long and short canoe trips on the Fox River, and exploring other places that were a short distance from camp. During the summer, we’d drive to the Pitstak Dairy, which had a small swimming lake with a beach and offered horseback riding. I remember we’d use the council van, named the Green Giant, for transportation. For added adventure in the evenings, we’d sometimes hike down the road to Camp Merrybrook and have a campfire with the Girl Scouts from the West Cook Council,” Gwen said.
When the West Cook Council and the Cloverleaf Council merged, they decided to sell Camp Cloverleaf on April 1, 1994. The eight cabins and the outdoor kitchen were moved to Camp Merrybrook. Later, the platform tents were also moved, and the unit was named Cloverleaf.
Camp Merrybrook – Serena, Illinois
In 1954, the West Cook Council purchased 97.5 acres of wooded property near Sheridan, Illinois. It fronted on the Fox River and Mission Creek. The council originally named the camp: Camp Kiwanis-on-the-Fox, because the Kiwanis Club of LaGrange provided money for the down payment. An existing fishing lodge near the creek was named Kiwanis Club.
The first campers arrived in 1955, and Mr. Bray, Sr. was the first camp caretaker. In 1956, the camp was renamed Camp Merrybrook. From 1957 to 1958, three platform tent units were added to the camp. In 1958, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad donated a huge steam engine bell to the council. It was installed on a concrete pillar outside Lenona Lodge and used in emergencies. The camp was dedicated on October 4, 1959, and the mortgage was burnt. From 1960 to 1961, the caretaker house and maintenance building were constructed. The Heritage House Lodge was built in 1964. At some point, more acreage was purchased, and the camp totaled 136 acres. At some time, a totem pole was displayed in respect for Native American tradition.
In the late 1970s, electricity and running water were installed in Heritage House. It was renamed Bonnie Brae after a camp trainer and the first caretaker. In 1971, Idle-a-While Lodge was built between Lenona and Bonnie Brae. It was the first lodge to have flush toilets. The pool and pool house were built in 1976. In the early 1980s, a challenging adventure course for older girls was constructed. It was not maintained and deemed unsafe. Repairs were never made, so it was taken down.
Camp River Trails – Sheridan, Illinois
In 1986, when the West Cook Council and the Cloverleaf Council merged, the board decided to sell Camp Cloverleaf and keep Camp Merrybrook. They renamed the camp: Camp River Trails. As mentioned above, the eight small cabins, outdoor kitchen, and platform tents were moved from Camp Cloverleaf to Camp River Trails. At the same time, the post office changed its address to Sheridan, Illinois. In 1995, the old farmhouse was torn down, and the Dreamcatcher Room was added. The Lenona Lodge was renamed the Merrybrook Room.
The entire construction included:
Two kitchens joining the two-unit rooms.
Multiple leader rooms.
A handicap ramp.
A stone wall for sitting around the fire ring.
A washroom and shower house with a storage basement and storm shelter beneath.
The entire complex of new buildings became known as the Lenona Complex. In 2000, a Friendship Pole was installed, and a challenge course called The Challenge of the Castle Garden was installed near the pool. Then, in 2014, an Ambassador troop from Lyons, IL, donated the materials and built an archery course near the camp manager’s house. Other troops built and painted a map of the camp and archery rules that were installed on the outside of the maintenance building.
Near the manager’s house, there were two landmarks: Smokey Bear and his two cubs, added by a Senior troop in 1958, and a sign that read, Camp Built by Cookies. Both landmarks are now at Camp Greene Wood. Over the ravine on one of the trails, there was a footbridge over a stream called River Kwai. Senior Girl Scouts made and repaired the bridge using logs, and branches lashed with twine.
Lifetime Girl Scout member Kathi Krankoski shared some Camp Merrybrook tall tales and traditions that carried over to Camp River Trails:
Friendship Pole: One of the traditions was to place “wishing rocks” around the Friendship Pole. The rocks were painted with environmentally safe paint, and when spring came, the magic happened, and the rocks and their messages were carried out via the Mission Creek, Fox, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers, and eventually into the ocean.
Sparkler pencils: At checkout from camp on a weekend, if your site or cabin met inspection, each girl received a camp sparkler pencil.
Cadette roundup: During a special week when only Cadettes could attend camp,the Cadettes never used the words “poison ivy.” They just said, “PI.”
Daisy Bridge: If a Girl Scout didn’t make the Girl Scout sign before crossing the bridge, it would collapse.
Old wagon: There was an old wagon abandoned as a group was heading west. It was left behind after the group was attacked by Native Americans. When excavating the area, clothing and other items were found.
The Legend of Hernando’s Hideaway: Legend has it that Hernando was a local bandit river private. He and his group stole from farmers and hid the treasures along Mission Creek. From the beginning of Camp Merrybrook until 2013, Girl Scouts would walk the creek and investigate caves to see if they could find a treasure. Early on, wagon wheels and broken pottery pieces were found.
The Legend of the Crying Princess: Behind the area where Bonnie Brae stands, there are bluffs that form what we call the Crying Princess. It’s a sandstone formation that weeps out a trickle of water. Legend has it that long ago, a young Native American woman, while running to escape an undesired suitor, fell to her death there. Her tears are what are seen to this day.